It’s an interesting history lesson, we’ll give it that. Marathon 2: Durandal on iOS is both a glimpse into the past of superstar developer Bungie Software and a demonstration of just how far games have come in 15 years.
Sadly, this touchscreen port of the early first-person shooter is also nigh-on unplayable, a combination of awful controls, archaic mechanics ill-suited to the platform, and headache-inducing visuals making it a thoroughly miserable offering, even for free.
While Marathon was only playable on an iPad, its sequel is a Universal app, available across all iOS devices. But even a smaller screen doesn’t help with its visual issues.
Shoot till you puke
After playing the Xbox Live Arcade version, many complained of motion sickness or dizziness, a problem that seems to be an issue here. I don’t tend to suffer from motion sickness, but after an hour-long play session I was left with feelings of nausea and a pounding headache.
That’s perhaps in part down to the skittishness of player movement, which makes the more elaborate environments infuriating to negotiate. It’s fine for boxier rooms (even if you’ll spend far too long looking at walls) but trying to walk across thin ledges never feels natural.
One early area in which a narrow walkway is next to a body of water saw me slip into the drink five times before I made it through. It didn’t get much better from there.
Old before its time
Overcome the control foibles – not helped by the tiny 'fire' buttons on the bottom-right of the screen – and you’re left with a first-person shooter that may have been cutting-edge at the time, but which has aged very badly indeed.
While it may have been more sophisticated than the likes of Doom, Durandal isn’t nearly as purely enjoyable as id’s classic – not least because this isn’t a particularly thoughtful port.
Enemies with barely two frames of animation skate towards your gun, a few shots sending them to the floor accompanied by a feeble ‘explosion’ - and I use the term loosely.
Where's my water?
Sound effects are inconsistent, too. At one point I found myself in an empty room, with the sound of rushing water assaulting my ears in one spot and silence a few feet away.
Head into the online store and you can buy the HD textures that were available on the XBLA version. These make the game marginally more attractive, but no less vomit-inducing.
Indeed, the store does its own bit to hurt your eyes, placing the item descriptions in bright white text boxes with green writing you can only read if you tilt your iOS device to a certain angle. Unsightly
There’s an option to purchase ‘enhanced’ reticules, too. 69p for weapon-specific crosshairs? Bargain. Then there’s Master Chief mode, which is essentially a cheat option that gives you all guns with infinite ammo, infinite health, and a level-skip.
If you’re desperate to see the story through to its conclusion then the latter might be worth a shout, especially as the awkward controls artificially up the difficulty. But you’d have to be a masochist to see this through to the end.